Archetypes: Jester

You only live once, and life’s not worth living without a little fun.

In fact, if you happen to be the Jester, present-minded joy is your first and primary concern. As a Jungian archetype, the Jester takes a break from the often romantic or courageous ideals of his cousins, displaying a masterful use of humor to reveal, heal – even hide – the deepest recesses of human trauma and subconscious.

As I have mentioned in prior posts of this series, this collection of posts deals with the archetypes first put forth by psychiatrist Carl Jung, and the use of these archetypes in fiction. Every post deals with the motivations, character profiles, and Shadows (or negatives) of each archetype. This week dives into the last group of Archetypes, the Self Types, which are defined by goals related to independent desires for development, power, or life. The Jester, whose main desire it to stay fully, happily “in the moment,” is today’s selection.



 The Jester

Jester archetype joker practical joker

Also known as the clown, trickster, comedian, practical joker or the fool, the Jester is an archetype that is at peace with the paradoxes of the world. He uses humor to illuminate hypocrisy, and also level the playing field between those of power and those without.

The Jester is a fun-loving character who seeks the now, inviting others to partake in creating a self-depreciating form of satire. The Jester is also almost always male, though this may be more from the cultural gendering of humor more than a limitation on the archetype itself. The Jester excels at projecting infectious joyletting go, and banishing depression or aggression from their friends and enemies. They strive for light-heartedness and carefree living.

A moot life is a Jester’s worst nightmare. In some cases, a Jester can also have a second “dragon,” which takes the form as humor being raised as a shield to deflect inquiries about personal trauma. Since fun and humor are requirements for a Jester’s lifestyle, periods of time where humor might be inappropriate make them uncomfortable, and maybe even willfully insensitive.

The Jester does not seek to solve the story’s problem. His main purpose on the journey is the journey itself. The outcome rarely matters to him, and in some cases, he may even be a bit of a devil’s advocate in the interest of spicing things up. The Jester does not reminisce, or plan for the future. In his darker, shadow form, the Jester may be prone to constant inebriation, or drug abuse. These vices could also manifest as a pervert, or any other negative trait defined by a lack of impulse control.

Unlike some of the other archetypes, there is also a secondary, split framework for this archetype in fiction. The Jester is sometimes cast as the comic relief (often the best friend to the lead character). The main difference between the Jester-as-Jungian and Jester-as-Comic-Relief is that the latter does not know he is the Jester. Comic reliefs are built as humorous foils for the audience, yet still often show the same characteristics of the classic Jungian archetype.


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Other Posts in this Series:

Creator Archetype Inventor Jung

28 thoughts on “Archetypes: Jester

  1. So I have to ask — Do you consider the Jester and the Trickster to be the same or similar archetypes? I always think of the Trickster has having a slight dark side, like Anansi or Loki. Even Odysseus as Trickster incarnate had some darkness. My favorite trickster, though, still Puck from “A Midsummer Night’s Dream.”


    1. I think Trickster might be a straddle between Magician and Jester; depends on their purpose! Great question though, and one I’ll have to ponder. I guess it we make it simplified by saying those that trick through magic should be magicians, then I think Loki would be, for example, in another archetype. Maybe I’d lean toward Magician with him, anyway, because he has an end goal in mind, and I’m not sure it’s to simply be happy in the present. I’ll have to see when I write up that archetype!

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  2. One of my favorite archetypes, Alex, although I don’t think I’ve explored creating too many of the characters within my personal writing, I am a fan of coming across them in films or other people’s books. I think Dori in Finding Nemo is probably one of the most appealing jester type characters I’ve yet to come across. She fits within so many of the descriptions you’ve provided. God, how I’d love to create a Dori character one day.
    Loved this addition to the series, Alex. It’s definitely been one of my favorite progressions of posts. And wholly timely as well, as I’m nose deep in new novel writing and can use all the wonderful resources I can get my hands on.
    This one’s bookmarked in bold letters.

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    1. I don’t know, I think Opal might be a shadow Jester! At least in the beginning of the book. 🙂

      I originally put Dory in my Innocent archetype post, but I can see how she could be a Jester, too. It’s really fun when you finds a character that straddles the line between two or three archetypes. 🙂


  3. Learning about character types through reading your descriptions and examples of archetypes is fun and informative for me. I am not a writer but rather a reader, and this gives me a more in depth perspective on characters and why they are even in the story. Thanks!

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    1. That’s wonderful to hear, Marilyn! It makes me happy to know that the series is useful even for people that aren’t writers. 🙂


    1. Thanks, Melissa! It is one of those personality types that is often overlooked, maybe because it’s difficult to place them in a modern story (where writers are encouraged to “cut the fat” of anything or anyone not moving the plot forward. Since Jesters don’t want to do much of anything except enjoy the moment, that’s kind of obstructive!)

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  4. Ahhhh, the Weasley twins! And Pippin and Merry! Though it’s interesting that you listed both Hobbits, because they’re also quite different. Pippin’s more naive, flighty, and curious, which often gets him into trouble. Merry’s a little wiser about the world and (usually) more serious. But together, they both know how to have fun. Bilbo’s 111th birthday party, anyone? 🙂

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    1. Yes, I had to list them together, because they sort of become the same character for the first few arcs of the book, until they are separated. The nice thing about these archetypes though is that they are fluid… you can start as one and end up as another!

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    1. Buffy! She would have been a great addition. Wonderful choice. She just wants to enjoy life and all those ‘freaking vampires’ keep getting in the way of that. Also, it’s quite slapstick, in true Whedon-fashion. 🙂

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    1. He could be. I think of C3P0 as the jester over R2D2 because R2D2 is usually serious and helpful, if snarky. Meanwhile C3P0 was a “translator” but also often put into t he position of a traditional Jester, as with Jabba the Hut.


  5. I love this series of yours. Archetypes are the juice of storytelling 🙂

    I like the Jester, though I think this is one of the hardest archetypes to work with. Very easy to make them superficial, which is easy to slip in when you think this character doesn’t seem to have a goal or a past.
    I suppose the trick is having them knowing the present very well and seeing in it more than the other characters do.

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    1. That’s definitely a good way to use them. Characters who use the present can also slow down a story that it barreling through things too quickly, and force the reader to also take a moment to “process” or get to know a character better before the next turn of plot (which is probably why so many Jester characters end up dying before the third act…. emotional investment!)

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  6. Nice job, super informative! I’m from near Vancouver but living in Montreal It’s always crazy relating archetypes to your life and realizing how grounded they are in the human experience.


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